We’ve all probably seen the paneling that was popular in the 60s and 70s…the big sheets of paneling with fake “grooves” in them that can be any number of wood-like colors (or not!). We were lucky enough to have five rooms in our house with this type of paneling in it. (And I say lucky very sarcastically.) I painted right over the paneling in three of those rooms but of course you can still see the grooves in the paneling and while that doesn’t look bad, it still looks like paneling. And maybe you want your wall to look like drywall but aren’t able to tear it all down and put in drywall right now! That was what happened to me a few years ago.
Before we completely gutted the kitchen I had an interim solution for the existing paneling: I filled in those fake grooves and painted right over that. And guess what, it worked great! You had to look very closely to realize that it wasn’t plaster or drywall. (And really, who would come to your house and scrutinize it so carefully?)
Back before I was going to do this, I was looking around on the web trying to find out if others had done this and how it had held up. I found numerous how-tos for painting the paneling, but nothing really for smoothing out the paneling. I thought maybe others might benefit from my experience with this. Keep in mind, my paneling may have been different than what you have and maybe we are less or more hard on our walls. If your paneling is not firmly attached to the wall behind it the results may not be as good. But, this is what worked for me!
Here is what I used for this project:
- Stain blocking primer
- Joint compound (I used Sheetrock All Purpose Joint Compound)
- Sanding blocks
- Drywall trowel or knife
I started by priming all the grooves with a regular latex primer. (I think I used Zinzzer stain blocking primer.) Stain blocking is important because of the wood behind it. I know I didn’t want the stain on my paneled walls seeping through my new paint job! I used primer on the grooves first because I had read that it would help to adhere the joint compound (aka drywall mud in our house) to the paneling. I didn’t want any drywall mud cracking and popping out of the groove so I wanted to try anything that might help minimize that. I really don’t know if this made a huge difference, but this is what I did and it worked well so I’m including this step.
You can see this step here:
You can see it is pretty simple. Just paint the grooves, because you will have to prime everything again after you fill the grooves with drywall mud.
Next, take the drywall trowel and smooth drywall mud down the groove from top to bottom. I usually took a couple of passes diagonally too just to make sure the mud is pressed firmly in the groove and uniform. I went over the whole wall like this, only filling in the grooves.
Then, I waited a day until the drywall mud was dry. I took the sanding block and sanded down the areas that I had applied the drywall mud to until the filled groove was flush with the surface of the paneling. (Basically I just sanded until I was hitting the paneling on either side of the groove so everything was smooth.) There were a few places that were too low due to the drywall mud shrinking so I had to go over those places with mud again and let dry and sand again too.
I wiped the walls down with a damp rag to remove all the drywall dust, then I primed the whole wall. After that was dry, I painted with regular paint. And voila! It looked like drywall!
In the two+ years we lived with our “drywall” paneled walls, we have had no complaints. No compound popping out of the grooves, no cracking, nothing. It worked great! We did finally gut the kitchen and completely remodel but not because of the walls. I actually did this on our entryway too at the same time and those walls are still going strong today. You would never know they were paneling. Here is a picture of that wall tonight:
If you have a paneled wall that you don’t like and you aren’t able to put in drywall right now, try this! A few days’ work, and your wall will look 100 times better.
Hope that helps!